Statistically-speaking, looking back over the unofficial first half of this season, Jorge Polanco and Max Kepler seem like great candidates for team Most Valuable Player thus far. They are the top two in WAR on the club and have contributed to those totals in unique ways: Jorge has been a .300+ hitter all season long, while Kepler has provided great patience and power at the top of the order.
One could even throw a couple of pitchers into that Most-Valuable mix: Berrios is a top-ten player in all of baseball for ERA and innings pitched (perhaps transforming into a true top-of-the-rotation workhorse), while Taylor Rogers has been one of the most dominant and flexible relievers in either league.
In terms of quantifiable value, all four of those players are great Most Valuable Player choices. There is, however, perhaps another way to examine who might be team MVP, and that is to replace “player” at the end of that acronym to “presence”. Though not necessarily as easily categorized, these are the guys who just seem to make their team better simply by being on the field. A certain level of performance is needed, of course, but some players are lynch-pins in ways that others aren’t.
Right now, I see two such players on the Twins…
Byron Buxton: In nearly every aspect of the game, Buck gives this club an enormous lift. When all starting OF-ers are healthy, his presence takes that trio from “very good” to “absolutely elite”. He’s the only speed presence (in terms of stolen bases) on this team whatsoever, and his fleetness in general puts an enormous amount of pressure on opposing defenses. The main criticism against him in the past has always been his bat, but he currently holds a .816 OPS and leads the team with 24 doubles. Byron also possesses a sort of infectious competitive spirit that seems to inspire those around him (I see a bit of Kirby Puckett in him in that regard).
Nelson Cruz: On a team filled with solid offensive contributors, Nelly is the most consistent of the bunch. His .921 OPS and 142 OPS+ lead the squad, and all the other counting totals are solid across the board. One thing the current Twins iteration sometimes lacks is a fearsome right-handed slugger. C.J. Cron was that guy for a while—until he potentially played hurt the last few weeks and thus saw a huge drop in production. Miguel Sano can carry that mantra from time to time, but his deep slumps make it difficult to count on him day-in and day-out. The Boomstick, even at 38 years of age, just keeps rolling along and terrorizing opposing pitchers. I don’t think his presence in the clubhouse can be ignored either, as from all reports he seems to be a really cool dude and a great leader. I would guess that he and Rocco Baldelli are a great fit for providing leadership to this team.
With a squad as deep and talented as the Twins have been so far this season, picking specific players that stand out above the rest is almost an exercise in futility. All in all that is probably a good thing, as it means one or two guys don’t have to carry the load every day. For me, though, if I could somehow guarantee that two Twins could be in the lineup nearly every day for the rest of 2019, those two would be Buxton and Cruz.
Who should be the Twins "most valuable presence"
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